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7 Laundry Hacks That Save Time, Money and the Planet

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Laundry is a drain on the modern green household. It sucks up energy, water, and time — three things very precious to any eco-warrior. Fortunately, technology has some excellent solutions to our laundry problems. Here are seven laundry hacks that help you make sure your washer and dryer are doing their part for the planet.

1. Upgrade to an Energy Star Model

If your current washer and dryer are more than 10 years old, upgrading them will save you significant time doing your weekly laundry and also reduce your utility bills. Energy Star–rated washers can reduce your water use by 45 percent and your energy use by 25 percent. An Energy Star–rated dryer will save you around $245 in energy costs over its lifetime. If upgrading isn’t an option yet, be conscientious about using your current washer’s settings correctly. If you have water level settings, make sure to set your washer to the lowest one. If not, always use the correct load size setting — small for small loads, medium for medium loads, and so on. You could save more than 1,200 gallons of water per year.

2. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

Almost 90 percent of the energy a washer needs is used to heat water. If you wash your clothes in cold water, you’ll cut down your energy use significantly and save $66 or more a year on your energy bill, depending on the amount of laundry you do. New high-efficiency (HE) washers clean just as effectively with cold water. Make sure to use a specially designed HE laundry detergent.

3. Select the Fastest Spin Speed

Choose the fastest spin speed your washer (and your clothes) can handle. The faster the washer spins, the more water is whisked out of the load, and the less time it needs to spend in the dryer. Be sure to use this for towels, if nothing else.

4. Take Advantage of Sensor Features

Load and moisture sensors will intelligently adjust your washer and dryer cycles. Load sensing assesses each load you put in the washer and determines how much water is needed to clean it properly. Similarly, moisture sensors are more efficient than setting a timer on your dryer. These sensors can tell when your clothes are dry and stop the machine, reducing your dryer’s energy use by about 15 percent.

5. Opt for Models That Use Less Water

Traditional top-loading washing machines fill up the entire tub with water and rub clothes against the agitator in the middle of the tub. New top-loader models don’t have an agitator — they flip and spin clothes through a stream of water instead of filling the whole tub, which significantly reduces water usage. Front-loading washers tumble clothes to clean them instead of using an agitator. Either option is an eco-friendly choice that will reduce the amount of water you use to do laundry.

6. Turn Down the Dryer Heat

Longer drying cycles on a low heat setting use less energy. Be sure to clean the filter in between loads to keep the dryer in top working order.

7. Toss a Tennis Ball into the Dryer

This old-school trick really works. When you’re drying large, bulky items — such as down comforters, jackets, blankets or pillows — throw in a couple of new tennis balls with the load. The balls bounce around in the dryer to separate the waterlogged, heavy material, which reduces drying time and energy usage.

Follow these laundry hacks to take advantage of today’s washer and dryer features that save time, energy and water for a super-green laundry routine.

Jennifer Tuohy is an earth-conscious mom who writes for The Home Depot on a variety of green, tech, and parenting topics. She provides advice on easy, simple ways to be greener when doing your laundry. To see a selection of Energy Star-rated washers and dryer like the ones Jennifer mentions in this article, visit The Home Depot here

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7 Laundry Hacks That Save Time, Money and the Planet

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Chart of the Day: Food Is Cheap!

Mother Jones

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Whenever you point out that inflation is pretty low these days, you can expect a flurry of responses along the lines of, “Have you seen the price of eggs lately?!?” As it happens, yes, I have. More to the point, the US government tracks food inflation, and it’s really low right now. As in negative. Food bought in stores (as opposed to restaurant food) is 2.2 percent cheaper than it was a year ago. This means the average family is spending about $150 less on groceries than they did in 2015. Happy Holidays!

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Chart of the Day: Food Is Cheap!

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Daily Action to Celebate Earth Week: Restore Nature

The week leading up to Earth Day is a great time to focus attention on the individual steps we can each take to help protect the planet and ourselves. That’s why, throughout Earth Week (April 17 – April 23) we’ll be highlighting a daily action that can make a difference.

First up: Restore Nature

Nature depends on wilderness, wetlands, forests, prairies and even deserts to sustain the animals, plants and resources ecosystems need to thrive. But the natural world is quickly disappearing. Since the 1700s, the U.S. has lost over 50 percent of its wetlands.

Twenty-two states have lost at least 50 percent of their original wetlands, reports Environmental Concern, Inc., while in seven states over 80 percent of original wetlands have disappeared. The story is similarly grim when it comes to the loss of forests.

The United Nations Environment Programme reports that 13 million hectares of forests, an area equivalent to the size of Greece, are cut down around the world every year. And though over a quarter of the world was once covered by grasslands, much of that has now been turned into farms, energy development and even suburbs, says National Geographic.

Though you may not be able to plant a tract of prairie or singlehandedly restore a marsh, you can do the following to make a difference:

* Plant a tree in your own yard. Can this make a difference? I think of the neighborhood I grew up in as proof that it can. My neighborhood started off as a blank subdivision that had been clearcut so that every house could be easilybuilt on a small, treeless tract. One of the first things my parents and others did when they moved in was plant treesin their front yard as well as in the back. Today, that neighborhood is flush with mature trees that provide shade in the summer and wonderful habitat for all kinds of migrating birds.

* Fill your landscapewith native plants. Whether or not you plant a tree, you will probably have other flowers and bushes in your yard. As much as possible, skip the exotic species in favor of native plants that help restore nature’s balance to your community. Your local county extension agent will be able to tell you what’s native to your region, as well as what will thrive in your own yard given your access to sunlight and water.

* Get together with your neighbors to restore natural spaces. Convene a meeting with your city planning officials and other concerned citizens to identify parts of your neighborhood that you can replant. Connect with the Boy Scouts to stencil storm drains with messages that warn people that the drains connect to their watershed, so they shouldn’t dump oil, paint or other contaminants. Organize a stream clean-up.

* Stopinvasive species.Non-native plants and animals threaten native wildlife and ecosystems and wreak ecological havoc, says the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which pushes many plants and animals to the brink of extinction. Next to habitat loss and degradation, invasive species are the biggest threat to biodiversity. They can also cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars because they can clog water pipes, decimate fisheries and propagate disease. NWF recommends setting up monitoring systems to detect infestations of these unwanted creatures, and, at home, eradicating invasives in favor of planting and maintaining a natural garden.

* Be water wise. Think about water in two ways: how you use it and how you keep it clean. We waste an enormous amount of water by letting faucets run; by watering grass; by ignoring leaks; and by running appliances like dishwashers and clothes washers when they’re somewhat empty. Save water in your yard by planting more drought-tolerant plants, tightening faucets, replacing toilets and shower heads with more water-wise models and running appliances when they’re full. Protect water quality by minimizing use of fertilizers, insecticides and other pollutants that can run off into streams, rivers and lakes. Buy organically grown food to help reduce agricultural water pollution. And stop using personal care products that contain plastic microbeads, tiny pieces of toxic plastic that wash down the drain and into our waterways.

What other ideas do you have for restoring Nature on Earth Day? We’d love to hear what you plan to do.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Daily Action to Celebate Earth Week: Restore Nature

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Friday Cat Blogging – 8 January 2016

Mother Jones

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The holidays just fly by, don’t they? At least, that’s what we all say after they’re over. This time, though, the inconvenient timing of Christmas means that you never saw the furballs in action on Christmas morning. As usual, the presents we bought them were dirt cheap, but they nonetheless enjoyed them far more than the humans did. The picture below is relatively early in the morning, when the cat presents were still in tolerably good shape. An hour later it was just a mountain of scraps.

By the way, Hopper here is the reason we didn’t have a Christmas tree this year. It would have been a disaster. Maybe next year.

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Friday Cat Blogging – 8 January 2016

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4 Ways to Celebrate the Solstice

The winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere and the official beginning of winter, has had deep spiritual significance since neolithic times. “Throughout history, humans have observed this seasonal milestone and created spiritual and cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest period of the year,” explains National Geographic.

This year the winter solstice, the moment when the Earth is farthest away from the Sun, falls on December 22 (or December 21 depending on where you live), and for many, this is a holiday to celebrate. Many people are turning to non-denomination celebrations to avoid the consumer frenzy of this time of year, but also as a way to build their own traditions, particularly as eco-consciousness expands.

But why is it important to celebrate this event? According to Deena Wade of Mother Earth Living,

“Attuning our senses to the subtle changes and cycles of the seasons might help us attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in ourselves. By performing simple rituals with personal meaning to celebrate the solstice, these rituals will serve as touchstones to help us cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and appreciation that will carry us through the holiday season with more ease.”

For many, celebrating solstice is about acknowledging the divine energy of nature, often said to be heightened during this important celestial event, and being mindful of our connection to the natural world. Here are five easy ways to celebrate the solstice this year.

1. Do an Energy Fast

This idea comes to us from Richard Heinberg, author of Celebrate the Solstice. You can turn off the television, games, lights and cell phones and enjoy the day without technology to remember what our lives we like before technology. Turning off the electronics will allow you to tune into yourself, perhaps setting intentions for the new year, or reflecting on the year past.

2. Get Outside

Whether you’re in a city or in the forest, finding time for nature time is good for you anytime of year, but can be particularly grounding during these holiday weeks. If you can find water, the winter solstice is a great time to experience the benefits of finding your blue mind, but even just getting outside for a walk in green space is proven to have numerous scientific benefits.

3. Celebrate with Food

Connecting with food is an important part of any celebration, but it seems especially important during the winter months as we work hard to keep our body and souls warm. Whether holiday baking is your style, or making warming, nourishing plant-based meals, or making a warming fireside Wassail, a traditional German drink if spiced, simmered beer, rooting yourself in healthy traditions is a good option for any holiday.

4. Get Crafty to Connect with Nature

Cait Johnson, a writer here at Care2, has shared two of her favorite solstice projects: making a prayer stick and celebrating stones. These projects give adults and children a chance to reconnect with both nature and the spirit world, whatever that means to you.

Another great project is to make paper lanterns from recycled, upcycled, and natural items from in or near the home. Get the tutorial here.

Related:

Winter Solstice Savory Pie
5 Reasons to Love the Winter Solstice
Christmas and Hanukkah Co-opted Paganism

Images from ThinkStock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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4 Ways to Celebrate the Solstice

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5 Energy-Saving Gifts Any Home Can Use

Are you running out of gift ideas? Here are five possibilities that are popular because they save money, help reduce climate change and are just unusual enough that someone probably wouldn’t by them for him or herself.

1) Nest Thermostat – The Nest Thermostat takes programmable thermostats to a whole new level. Its auto-schedule feature enables it to learn what temperatures you like throughout the day, and then program itself to automatically operate at those temps. The device will automatically turn itself down when nobody’s home to help you save energy. You can connect to your WiFi and control the temperature in your home from your phone, tablet or laptop. And to give you an incentive to save energy, a cute little green leaf will show up on the front of the thermostat when you choose an energy-saving temperature. Though the Nest costs about $250, it could save you 10-12 percent a year on your heating bills and as much as 15 percent on your cooling bills, so it will pay for itself in just a couple of year. The device works with 95 percent of 24V heating and cooling systems, including gas, electric, forced air, heat pump, radiant, oil, hot water, solar and geothermal. You can buy it online at Nest.com or at Home Depot.

2) LED bulb – LED bulbs are starting to catch on, but because they’re somewhat more expensive and sometimes look a little unusual, some consumers have been dragging their heels about buying them. I always give LED bulbs to people as housewarming gifts, but they make good holiday gifts, as well. They are more durable than compact fluorescent bulbs, so can withstand significant temperature fluctuations (CFLs can be very slow to turn on and illuminate in cold weather). Unlike regular incandescents, they don’t generate mostly heat. An LED is all about light, and a lot of it. The key is to get an LED that meets ENERGY STAR’s certifications for light quality and performance. You can get more information about LED bulbs on the ENERGY STAR website. Once installed, you may not have to change an LED bulb for a good 10 years or so. That in itself is a gift worth giving!

3) The Wonderbag – Wonderbag is a non-electric, portable slow cooker. It almost looks like a medium sized pouffy pillow that your cat might sit on. But in fact, it’s made up nifty insulated blocks wrapped in colorful fabric that, by some genius means, can effectively cook food that’s placed inside the bag. All you have to do is bring food to a boil, then take it off your stove, and put a lid on it. Wonderbag will do all the rest. I’ve used mine to make yogurt in; instead of keeping my oven on warm while my yogurt firms up, I put that hot bowl of yogurt mix, covered, into the Wonderbag and tie it close. Six or so hours later, I’ve got delicious yogurt. BONUS: For every Wonderbag purchased in North America, one is donated to a family in Africa. This low-tech cooking technology is being hailed as an affordable solution to climate change because it can help families stop burning coal and wood when they cook. Can’t figure out how it works? These videos explain.

4) Heated shawl or heated lap blanket – Do you hate to shiver when you’re working, reading, knitting or watching TV? But hate more turning up the heat for the whole house just so you won’t freeze in your chair? An electric shawl or lap blanket could be the perfect gift either for yourself or for family or friends. You can adjust the temperature to be warm or hot, and if you go with a shawl design, you’ll be able to use your hands to read, sew, knit, work on your computer, or do other tasks. Search online for “heated shawl.” You’ll find several options to choose from if you search “heated shawl or lap blanket” online.

5) Solar chargers to recharge phones, tablets, possibly laptops – Who could use a solar charger? Someone who goes hiking and camping and needs to keep his devices powered up. Someone who lives in an area that is prone to power outages. Someone who is traveling and can’t rely on having an electrical outlet and the right amount of power available. Or just anyone who’d like to cut their carbon footprint a little bit by recharging via the sun rather than a coal-fired plug. You can find solar chargers online, but also at stores as diverse as REI, Land’s End, Home Depot and Best Buy. Before you buy, you might want to read this review in the Wirecutter. They researched 69 solar chargers and spent 22 hours testing eight of them in the desert. They recommend the RAVPower 15W Solar Charger, which costs $50, saying it can charge most phones at near full speed and an iPad Air2 in roughly five hours of clear sunlight.

Related
Tips and Tricks to Avoid Overspending This Holiday
5 Ways to Help Others on Christmas Day

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Energy-Saving Gifts Any Home Can Use

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Best Gift Wrapping That’s Not Paper

Wrapping paper is one of those things that looks beautifulfor the few minutes a gift is under a tree or put into the hands of the recipient. Otherwise, it’s a big environmental, and sometimes financial, drain. As far as the planet goes, the amount of paper wasted on wrapping is staggering. Stanford University reports if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields! Worldwide, wrapping paper spending reaches $2.6 billion yearly. That’s a lot of money to throw away.

Here’s a better idea: Wrap gifts in fabric or containers that can be re-used. For example:

* Japanese Wrapping Cloths – These beautiful cloths come in various sizes and in different themes. Some are very Christmas-y, but others feature flowers and Japanese cultural icons. They’re reasonably priced and can be used over and over again.

* Cloth Christmas Gift Bags – These reusable bags are made from 100 percent cotton and are tied with a ribbon made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. They’re available in various sizes and for wine bottles.

* DIY Cloth Gift Bags – Make your own gift bags by sewing three sizes of fabric together, pinking the top with pinking shears and then tying a reusable ribbon around the top. Care2 offers instructions on making your own reusable burlap bags herejust dress them up with a bright and colorful ribbon, and you’re done.

* Reusable Grocery Shopping Bags – For $.99, you can get a reusable shopping bag, either grocery store sized or, at a place like TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, jumbo sized. Putting even larger gifts in a bag saves so much time and paper wrapping, and people invariably love having a bag like this to reuse after the holidays are over.

* Towels & Napkins – Cloth towels and napkins are particularly good for wrapping small kitchen utensils, jars of special spices and sauces, organic coffee or tea, or chocolate.

* Holiday-themed Cardboard Boxes – Decorated cardboard boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, so you can use them for clothing, games, food, beauty products and more.

* Socks – Whether you use holiday-themed socks or something more practical, socks can make the perfect “container” for jewelry, cosmetics, a small book, a special knick-knack, small battery chargers and other items. Tie them together at the top with shoelaces and you’ve given gifts within gifts.

* Reusable Food Containers – Use an empty (and clean) cardboard oatmeal canister, a stainless steel pot with a lid, a covered glass casserole dish or something else fun and whimsical. It’s fun to try to guess what might be inside such an unusual wrap.

* Bento Box – All of the compartments in a Bento Box make it perfect for cosmetics or beauty products, jewelry, or other small items. Use the stackable boxes for kid’s toys, like items for a doll house.

* Glass Vase or Bowl – One of the loveliest gifts I ever got was a bunch of Narcissus bulbs already set in stones, in a beautiful antique glass blowl. The bulbs flowered and then died, but I still have that bowl, a treasured gift from a good friend.

What’s your favorite eco-friendly way to wrap a gift? Please share!

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5 Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Wrap IdeasWhat’s in Your Starbucks Gingerbread Latte?
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Best Gift Wrapping That’s Not Paper

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7 Alternatives to Holiday Gift Exchanges

If the holiday season can feel a bit too materialistic for your liking, rest assured that youre not alone. Dont feel pressured to head to the nearest mall just because other people expect you to. There are many other meaningful ways you can share with others that dont involve directly exchanging material gifts.

1. Volunteer

This is great to do in groups. Spending quality time together can be a precious opportunity, especially in the busyness of the holiday season.

Try volunteering for a few hours with your family or friends at a favorite local charity. You can prepare meals at a soup kitchen, help out at an animal shelter or teach a fun class at a school or retirement home.

Another option is to create your own project. Check if anyone you know needs a shed built, some painting done or help organizing their basement. Set up a time and invite your loved ones over to take part.

And dont forget your workplace. Volunteering as a group can also make a great holiday office party. Try checking out VolunteerMatch.org for options available near you.

2. Donate

Many organizations that are working to improve our world need our support. Giving money to charities can make a much greater difference in the world compared to buying another short-lived stocking stuffer.

You can donate to an organization that you know a person on your list would support, then give them a card to let them know you were thinking of them.

Check if any charities where you live have adopt a family programs where you can sponsor a family in need for the holidays. A local Salvation Army will typically have programs like this.

3. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Suggest to family and friends that you all agree to give away items you no longer want rather than acquiring more this year.

It can also be helpful to organize a group swap in order to do something with all that extra stuff. Ask each person to bring a number of items they no longer want to the swap. Lay out all the items in the middle of a room and invite everyone to take something new home with them. If theres anything left at the end, simply box it up and take it to a local charity.

4. Travel

A group trip with family and/or friends can be a great way to enjoy each others company for the holidays without the material burden.

You can all decide to go on a long, international trip together if thats the consensus. But a small-scale trip, such as a day out to a neighboring town, can be just as fun.

And if youd prefer not to travel at all, you can always host a potluck at your place. Ask people not to bring any gifts, just their favorite dish and their wonderful company.

5. Host a Cookie Swap

Try hosting an old-fashioned cookie exchange, where each person brings a few dozen of their best cookies or other holiday baking.

It can be stepped up a notch by making it a packing party. Everyone can bring tins, plastic boxes or other containers, as well as packing materials. Once youve all swapped goodies, you can pack them up to send to out-of-town family and friends.

6. Book Exchange

Let friends and family know youd like to trade books this year. Ask them to share a book they really enjoyed with you and youll do the same.

You can also get together and start a Little Free Library project. This is an organization that helps people around the world to build their own little libraries, which are usually small wooden structures near peoples homes filled with books. Their slogan is take a book, leave a book, and everyone in the community is welcome to participate. Their website has lots of details on getting started.

7. Share Yourself

Instead of a material gift, you can share something personal. Sing your family a song at the dinner table, write a poem for a friend or offer to give a relaxing massage.

If you have a particular skill youd like to share, consider offering a lesson or a class for the people in your life.

Do you and your loved ones have any alternative traditions for holiday giving? Feel free to post any of your ideas in the comments!

Related
5 Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas
16 DIY Holiday Gifts for Everyone on Your List
7 Ways to Fend Off Holiday Stress (& Stay Grateful!)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Alternatives to Holiday Gift Exchanges

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7 Tips for a Relaxing Staycation

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7 Tips for a Relaxing Staycation

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